Monday, February 21, 2005

You're welcome Scott. So happy I could help build your traffic up while you were away

It's been a long day so I'm just reading the comments from the TongueTied fans that came over to gloat over getting me kicked off the blog. I got news for you kids, we were both set up. I wasn't pissed off about it though until I read this insulting post.

Let me remind Crumpy and the rest of the gloaters that I didn't hack my way into that blog, Scott invited me in. He was well aware of my politics and my style. As these posts will attest, I was completely honest and I had no expectations.

But I didn't post everything I said to him - yet. He knew exactly what would happen when he threw two left wing bloggers alone into that bandwidth with absolutely no editorial guidelines because I told him. I smelled a trap from the get go here, but I couldn't figure out what the payoff was. Let's face it, I'm no prize catch in and of myself. So being insatiably curious, I stepped into it.

Not to mention, I pitched my participation to him in the first place as a challenge to him personally. I thought I had finally found a courageous blogger of opposite politics who could rise to an intellectual discourse. How disappointing to find that he didn't have the "gravitas" for the debate after all. And how sad that it turned out his angle was a cheezy short term ploy to build a bigger audience from which to beg for money.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

We've already said goodbye....

Okay tell the truth folks, who expected it to last even this long? Jim and I got kicked off Tongue Tied today for generating ten times the usual feedback, all of it hate mail. It's like, what were they expecting, that right wing readers suddenly confronted with a complete change of format to the left would be sending love notes? We did our job with due diligence, the other right wing blogger disappeared after the first couple of days. So it's our fault it turned into a left wing echo chamber overnight? What were we supposed to do? Invite Ann Coulter to step in?

The whole thing feels suspiciously like a setup to keep the traffic up while Scott was incommunicado but - no expectations, no regrets. It was fun while it lasted and who knows what effect it might have had on the average Joe that we pissed off? A little truth never hurt anybody and understanding often comes after anger. At least I know my meme got through to a lot of people. Besides, I need the free time for another project I've been neglecting.

Meanwhile, do you think my goodbye post was gracious enough?
Freedom for Hemp

Good news developing on a couple of fronts in hemp and we mean rope quality cannabis that really is "just a plant," albeit a truly beneficial one. In Australia 2.5 million hemp plants will be harvested from a secret location in Northern NSW over the next two weeks, and then processed for use in the construction of two hemp houses. The environmental benefits of the project are numerous.

Dr Bolton said the 1.3 hectare crop was being grown at a North Coast sewerage plant and used as a means of "mopping" up the effluent. It is the fifth and largest hemp crop to be produced through SCU's North Coast Mop Crop Project.

"We are aiming to demonstrate that there can be a commercial outcome from hemp cultivation. The State Government has indicated that they will not allow commercial licences for growing hemp until they are confident there is a market."

Dr Bolton said once economies of scale were in place the cost of the hemp building material should be similar to conventional bricks. He said it was possible that in future people would be able to grow their own crop and then have their house built on site out of the processed hemp.
(Don't you love that idea?)

"I can definitely say the insulation properties are far superior. We also think we may be eligible for carbon credits, because the material will be locking up a significant amount of carbon." Tell the truth I don't understand the carbon part but it must be good if they give credits for it.

Meanwhile, issued a press release announcing a new industrial hemp farming bill to be introduced in California and is holding a press conference in support of the bill on Wednesday February 23, 2005 at 9:00am being held in California State Capitol, Room 1190, in Sacramento. The public is invited and there will be free samples of hemp products.

If the new hemp bill becomes law, farmers would be able to apply for state licenses to grow hemp. The law would be similar to regulations on industrial hemp in other countries such as Canada and the European Union. Proponents are hoping the Governator, who grew up in a country that allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp will be more amenable than former Gov. Gray who vetoed similar legislation. I hope so too.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

House cleaning

House lawmakers are introducing a bill for federal research on meth houses. It would fund studies to identify the health dangers and help states create standards for cleaned-up houses, and will hold a hearing next month examining the health dangers of shut-down meth labs.

I'm glad to see this. With the proliferation of home labs this has become a greater threat, especially to low income Americans. These labs are generally set up in poor neighborhoods with cheap rents. They come in, cook it up and leave the landlord with the mess. Oftentimes the landlord won't even know it happened and the next family moves into a chemical wasteland.

Of course the one thing this research is unlikely to touch on is that this did not become a problem until they government banned the precursor ingredients. In the old days they cooked meth without the toxic waste because the precursors were pure controlled substances.

Another example of how prohibition creates problems rather than solving them.

Law enforcement gone bad

Media Awareness Project has a great newsletter this week. My favorite story is this little harbinger of hope on a DA's office in western North Carolina who sent a memo to the local law enforcement telling them they were going to "crack down" on which drug cases it will prosecute. They're only going to take the cases they think they might win and apparently there's a lot of shoddy police work going on out there.

"We have to cull 36 cases to try from approximately 200 Traffickers, 350 Sellers, 25 Habitual Felons, and the 2000+ defendants charged with possession."

And speaking of shoddy police work, in South Carolina a "police officer faces charges of swapping crack for sex and other illegal conduct over the past seven years following a State Law Enforcement Division investigation."

You read about it every day folks and it's a direct result of prohibition. Illegal drugs corrupt the cops more than the consumers.

Loretta's rolling

Our pal, the tireless Loretta Nall has been busy making and reporting the news. She was in South Florida interviewing the teenage victims of a drug bust sponsored by the local high school in a report for PotTV and was interviewed herself by the Sun Sentinel.

Meanwhile her run for governor of Alabama is shaping up with encouragement from the Libertarian Party. Way to go Loretta.

Texas talk

If you're not reading Grits for Breakfast every day, you missed Scott's excellent post on a teacher with 27 years of apparently exemplary service to her school system, who developed a drug problem and is facing 2-10 years in jail for possession of 1-4 grams of meth. To put that into context it would look like, at most, a half a teaspoon of sugar if you dumped it on the table. Scott rightfully berates the community for failing to offer support.

Drug abuse isn't just happening to those "other people" anymore. It's happening to our teachers, our prosecutors, our cops, our politicians, people in every walk of life. Treating it as a criminal instead of a medical problem makes things worse and doesn't solve any of the associated problems. The teacher in question is 51 and was functioning on the job; a leave of absence to attend a drug abuse program, plus a lot of support from her peers and community, and it's easily conceivable that in a year's time she could be back teaching, drug free, and able to contribute for quite a while longer during a time when Texas has a shortage of experienced teachers.

Read the post and keep scrolling for Scott's coverage of a logical proposal to remedy what ails the Texas probation system and some sage thoughts on the defunding of drug task forces. Oddly enough we owe the elimination of the Bryne grants that fund these atrocities to Bush's proposed budget. It's practically the only line item I agree with.

Worthy cause

Last October Americans for Safe access filed a petition with the US Department of Health and Human Services asking it to reschedule marijuana to reflect it's accepted use as a medicine. Currently it's a Schedule One drug meaning the government treats it as a substance with no known medical value.

Unsurprisingly, HHS is stalling on the petition but you can help ASA turn up the heat and compel HHS to take the issue under timely consideration. ASA needs to collect 100,000 signatures on paper petitions to submit to the agency by the end of March. You can download the petition here and collect signatures for them. Give it a whirl kids, there's even prizes.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Do as I say, not as I do

D'Alliance points us to this story on Rick Roach, a former DA in Pampa, Texas who recently plead guilty to federal charges of possession of methamphetamine, cocaine and unlawful possession of weapons by a drug addict. The last charge probably arising out of the loaded guns he's said to have kept in his desk.

Roach (yeah, that's really his name) was observed using the drug at least twice by his secretary and co-workers, suspicious due to his wild mood swings and erratic behavior were said to be terrified of him. Nonetheless, the unexpected bust shocked the small town. No details of the investigation are being disclosed.

Ironically Roach was known for his tough on drugs stance, urging his staff attorneys to push for maximum sentences for drug offenders. More interesting, in the course of the investigation, "state troopers alleged that Mr. Roach offered them Rolex watches and other incentives to emphasize money seizures in drug cases. State law allows such funds to be split between the law enforcement agency and prosecuting attorney's office." At the time of his arrest, "Roach – alone – controlled bank accounts with at least a half-million dollars in seized drug money."

He's not currently charged with any financial misconduct but clearly he was seduced by the prestige and power of administering the money. Just another illustration of the futility of this war on some drugs. If those who are charged with prosecuting the law can't resist the temptation to take drugs, especially someone as privileged as Roach, what chance does an ordinary addict have of avoiding the urge without treatment programs?

Prohibition has failed. Legalization could work. It's well past time to take the money out of law enforcement and prisons, where drugs are easier get than they are on the outside, and put it into clinics and regulatory agencies.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

By the way...

While I've been remiss on posting the news, don't think I've forsaken drug policy reform for politics. I did manage to work in the war on some drugs at TongueTied this week. Check out my posts about toddlers on Lithum and Gonzales' war on porn.

Walters off on pot - again

I know I've been neglecting the drug war news this week while I build up some steam at TongueTied but fortunately for all us, Pete (of apparently boundless energy) at Drug WarRant has been keeping track of the breaking news. Just start at the top for his report of the on the scene details of John Walter's sudden appearance at the Illinois State House of Representative's committee hearing on Representative McKeon's medical marijuana bill.

Despite his assertions that he was not there to "improperly influence legislation," the obvious effect of a US cabinet member attending a state level committee meeting was the bill failed to get out of committee for consideration by the House by a 4-7 vote. That's two away from a win though and two of legislators voiced support for the concept but not the language of the bill. Proponents vow to keep trying and warn drug czar Walters that the issue will not go away. Nor will it in the many other states that have similar bills pending.

And wouldn't you think Walters, as a high ranking federal Cabinet member, would have more important things to do with his time than spend the taxpayers money to plead his case for the incarceration of terminally ill people interfere in a state level debate?

But that's not all at Drug WarRant. Keep scrolling for the word on Illinois Representative Monique Davis' bill to leash the dogs let loose by Caballes and the poop on Souder's latest try to derail harm reduction.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
A quiet life

Well it seems I traded in the wild life for wildlife. It was a beautiful afternoon so I played outside for a while. I finally checked out the little road behind the house. It's an actual city street, it has a name but it's not paved. It was a short walk but an exciting one.

I've been wondering what the white stuff was on the fallen tree in the woods I can see from my kitchen window. On close inspection it turned out to be some kind of oyster shelf mushroom. It looked sort of like this only larger and much whiter even as it's aging into that sort of melted state. Very impressive fungi.

The road deadends just up over the top of the hill but there's four houses on it, actually two really fancy homes and two trailers. The house at the end is a huge brick affair with a really long driveway. The other one is very modern and made entirely of wood which is rare in these parts. It has sort of chalet feel to it and it's so beautifully landscaped with much statuary - all angels. It has a name, The House of Love and the mailbox is decorated with hearts and fluttery red things.

The next one up is a really junky trailer that looks abandoned until you see the car in the drive which you can't see until you get close because their yard has no lawn and their woods are littered with downed trees and brush. They also have a chicken coop made of scrap wood which explains the rooster I've been hearing. The other trailer was tidy and nondescript.

The best part of the walk was the butterfly. He came roaring out the woods and landed right in front of me on the road. He let me get me pretty close but took off before I could get a good look at his markings. I watched him fly away back down the road until he was out of sight and started walking up the hill again. Moments later he came hurtling by, not two inches from my shoulder and started flying around my head. For a second I thought he might land on me but he looped from one side to the other just out of reach. It was like being buzzed by a little acrobatic airplane. Finally he landed right in front of me again in the middle of the road. This time he let me crouch down and opened his wings so I could identify him. I had never seen one before so I had to look him up. He's a Mourning cloak.

Mindful of my new responsibilities of home rentership I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon raking the lawn. I like the raking thing, it has this Zen rhythm to it but picking up the stuff kind of creeps me out. Who knows what kind of bugs are in those leaves you know. A problem I could put off for today since it's a big yard and I'm no where near finished. But I can't just leave the piles there forever. What's the yellow page listing for guy who will pick up yucky yard stuff and take it away in his pickup truck anyway?

On the bright side, I have another daffodil plant blooming and I discovered that my yard is full of bluets of both varieties. One of my favorite flowers. I didn't know they were called Quaker Ladies. I like that name but I always called them star grass.

Man's best friend?

The good news is that J.D is a hell of retriever. The bad news is he retrieved his owner's bag of marijuana that had been hastily discarded, before the cop was finished questioning him. That's the thing with those goofy Labs. Love the breed myself, but they will fetch anything and there's no way to stop them. The owner inexplicably admitted the eighth of an oz. bag was his.

Meanwhile, some guy who probably was taking a break from the Westminster Dog Show paid $590,400 for a painting of dogs playing poker.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

ReconsiDering drug policy

I'm late in posting this but Nicolas Eyle, executive director of ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy made the news, gaining some well deserved recognition for his work in Syracuse. In a cover story at the Syracuse New Times Nick is credited with being the driving force behind an auditor's report done last year that illustrated the financial costs of the current interdiction strategies in the war on some drugs. The ground breaking report brought mainstream attention to the issue of drug policy reform and Nick reports he's been contacted by many other cities interested in analyzing their own budgets. He even heard from Scotland Yard who praised his work.

Other activists are taking up the cause and using this model as a strategy to reach the public and are amazingly making headway with local legislators. Cliff Thornton, executive director of Efficacy, a harm reduction organization in Connecticut, has been pitching the concept successfully there.

The sudden responsiveness of mainstream politicians to an issue that has been perceived as countercultural comes as no surprise to Thornton. "We're giving them what they need," he says. "This is really the exit strategy to the financial crisis every city in Connecticut, and I would venture to say every city in every state in the union, has suffered over the past three years. The three biggest items impacting their budgets are law enforcement, mandatory minimum sentences and prison building. And they just don't have the money."

As Nick notes in the article, it is indeed all about the Benjamins.

After a decade of working intensely on the issue, Eyle believes the general public is ready to consider another alternative. "People don't care about inordinately large numbers of black people in prison," he laments. "They don't care about families being broken up. They don't care about invading other countries to put supposed drug lords out of business. They don't care about spraying poisonous chemicals on the rain forest in South America to eradicate coco crops uselessly because they crop up again in the next country. Those issues appeal to some people, but for the general public, they don't care. They care that their taxes are going up and their streets are not safe and the house they own in the city is worth half as much as it should be. And now, in Syracuse, N.Y., they held hearings on the issue that relate to what people care about. The hearings were held based on budget."

Former Syracuse City Auditor Minch Lewis who conducted the now famous audit also attended community meetings and listened to what the people had to say.

Lewis' recommendation to explore alternatives to the local implementation of the war on drugs' total assault strategy stemmed from what seemed a general consensus at neighborhood meetings. "Most people are concerned about the violence that happens when drugs are sold on the corner," he maintained in his report. "They don't care if someone uses drugs in private. Our policy today may be contributing to the violence, just as Prohibition did for the last generation."

That's it in a nutshell folks. Prohibition has cost this country billions and billions of tax dollars in law enforcement and incarceration costs and puts control of what the UN says is the eighth largest business in the world into the hands of criminals. And while your local cop is out busting some kid for smoking a joint or some hapless addict for scoring a $10 bag of dope, violent criminals are left to rule the streets. There has got to be a better way and Nick Eyle can see it from Syracuse.

Drug WarRant busts Barthwell

Blogger is a funny platform. It's so irritating when it doesn't work but they have a fabulous support team over there. I finally emailed this morning when the last post still wouldn't publish and within minutes I'm up and running. So before anything crashes again, let me give the big breaking news of the week.

Pete at Drug WarRant catches Andrea Barthwell in a major lie. Not about her false propaganda on medical marijuana - that's old news - although he does expose it as the fraud it is in his post. This is bigger.

Seems our former drug czarina has started a new business, Illinois Marijuana Lectures, that coordinates a lecture tour where she recycles her ONDCP lies. After some superior sleuthing, Pete discovered that she can't tell the truth about anything. She lied about being sponsored by a group called Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center which is administered through the University of Illinois. Their legal counsel told Pete she was using their name and logo without permission.

Her site was down yesterday while she removed the deceiving links to GLATTC but Pete has preserved the screen shots of her website showing the former pages listing them as sponsor. If not for Pete she would be still be perpetrating this fraudulent claim. Good work buddy.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Larry McKeon who introduced the medical marijuana bill in Illinois that Barthwell is out stumping against, published a letter in the Chicago Sun Times addressing her disinformation tour on behalf of prohibition. He had this to say.

As a legislator, I am used to political disagreements, and I enjoy a healthy debate. But when a former White House official crisscrosses our state, deliberately spreading misinformation about a proposal to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, that's where I draw the line. ...

I welcome an honest debate about my medical marijuana bill, but let's base that debate on facts, not spin. Illinoisans deserve better than Andrea Barthwell's travelling con job.

So do we all deserve better. I have more to say on this at DetNews and at Tongue Tied.

Blogger Issues

This is a test. Blogger is apparently having publishing issues this week. I can't get into the editing platform at all and that double post is really bugging me. Hoping however we can still at least post new pieces this morning since this page is coming up.

Meanwhile, I'm finally nailed the trash thing. I managed to get it out there in time for the second week running. On the bird front, I'm disappointed that none of the birds are eating my orange. My dad puts them out for his birds and they eat them in minutes - I've had mine out there for 24 hours without one taker. I hoping they just haven't noticed it yet and will find it today. It's supposed to be another beautiful afternoon here in the South.

Monday, February 14, 2005

When prohibitionists put the public safety ahead of profit...

On this day in 1929 Prohibition One died in warehouse in Chicago. The Saint Valentine's Day massacre of course didn't literally end prohibition in the few minutes it took to conduct the legendary mob hit of Al Capone on Bugsy Moran, but it did turn public opinion against Capone and bootleg booze in general.

The people saw their good intentions had created crime, the bloody competition of the black market and watched the unregulated product wreak mayhem on the public health. They recognized in that moment that they could not stop alcohol consumption and so took action to end the failed war on booze in order to reestablish regulatory control over the industry.

Unlike today however, many of those who had profited from promoting temperance were the first to admit their error and in the interests of the common good led the way to sane policy. We could use a little more of that kind of selflessness among our current batch of drug war warriors but don't hold your breath waiting. The profit in drug prohibition is almost as great for the prohibitionists as it is for the dealers.

A few choice words on busting babies

Well this story is so bugging me this afternoon that I decided to vent a little to the station that published the account.

What is our society coming to when a child barely out of diapers is interrogated and punished like a common criminal for playing with dirt? The adults involved in this authoritarian outrage should be punished, not a child engaged in innocent play that is completely normal and expected in her age group. I mean really, didn't you ever make a mud pie?

The child learns nothing from this experience except that she can't trust the authority figures in her life to protect her and the undue and overboard reaction of "kid cop" Porter has educated her on drugs all right. Since she's already been punished for passing fake ones (a connection she is unlikely to have made on her own), she is more likely to be curious to find out about real ones.

Not that Porter would mind. Keeping kids interested in drugs is what keeps a prohibition profiteer like Sgt. Porter in clover.

You can tell them what you think by emailing here.

Kid cop claims greater good in overboard bust

The authorities are working overtime to justify their inappropriate interrogation and punishment of the 6 year old they "busted" for passing a bag of dirt to a friend.

"If she would have been 14, we would have been arrested her and taken her to jail." Sgt. Shirley Porter said. "It's important that a student understands what a drug is." .

Excuse me, but if she was 14 years old and still playing in the dirt, blissfully unaware of what drugs are, she would need remedial education, not jail time.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that maybe Ms. Porter has burned out after 16 years as "kid cop" and lost her objectivity. You wouldn't give a six year old a pack of matches either but you wouldn't think twice about handing them to a 14 year old and asking her to light the oven.

Not to mention, this heavy handed policy will do more to arouse this child's curiosity about drugs, not suppress it. I mean, she's already been punished for fake drugs, chances are she will now want to know what real ones look like.

Sunday, February 13, 2005
Daryl Hannah speaks

The screen star is urging lawmakers to legalize all natural hallucinogenic substances.

"It's ridiculous that something can be illegal when it can be so useful for opening minds," she said. "Hallucinogens open all of your senses. They can actually be quite educational and result in epiphanies."

Trip to the big city

I went shopping with my family yesterday, an excursion that unexpectedly turned into a whole day affair when we took a wrong turn on the beltway. We had a great time and I managed to buy a lot of things I needed but I'm still recovering from the culture shock. I haven't left this little town since I arrived here weeks ago and for someone like me, who goes to the mall maybe twice in a decade, being in two different malls in one day was somewhat jarring. I always feel like I'm lost in the Tower of Babel when I'm in those places.

Meanwhile, it's been temperate enough to sit on the front porch with my coffee in the morning and the cardinals have been joining me. It's so sweet - they sit in trees on opposite sides of the yard and sing to each other. And my brave little daffodil plant has decided to tempt the whims of February and bust out in flowers. I now have four blooms to cheer up the view.

Saturday, February 12, 2005
Cruel and unusual punishment in the Show Me state

This is really too much. A first grader in Missouri was given a two day in-school suspension because her teacher couldn't tell the difference between a bag of dirt and a bag of marijuana. An infuriating lapse of judgment on the school's part.

The teacher should be fired for neglect in allowing the child to be playing with trash from the playground in the first place and abuse for conducting a drug interrogation on a 6 year old. I doubt the child even understands what a look alike drug is. As far as she comprehends, she was punished for playing with dirt like any other kid her age does.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Prohibition profiteering

The prison industrial complex at work spending your tax dollars.

A jail guard is arrested for engaging in a contraband scheme for bringing cigarettes into the facility, where smoking is forbidden, in exchange for marijuana obtained through the inmates.

A little lesson in prohibition here. Cigarettes - a legal drug worth at most $7.50 a pack on the outside - are worth $100 a pack in prison.

What's in Popeye's pipe - really?

When I was a kid growing up in a Connecticut suburb outside of New York City even in those pre-cable days we were able to receive a large number of television stations based in Manhattan. You could pretty much find cartoons or other kids' programming like Soupy Sales to watch all day long. I watched a lot of TV then and Popeye in his many incarnations was one of my favorites.

I never really considered the allegorical implications of the cartoon but Dana Larsen, posting at Alternet makes a compelling case that the "spinach" known to give the sailor man his remarkable strength is an metaphor for marijuana and/or hemp. Read it all for yourself but here's one very interesting theory.

"Popeye characterizes the natural cycle going back through the ages to the ancient mariners ... books, [B]ibles, logs, maps, pennants, sails, ropes, paints, varnishes, lamp oil and sealants were all derived from hemp. Bluto represents the greedy toxic corporations, dependent industries and landowners.

"Both characters try to swoon the premier oil source, Olive Oyl. Bluto begins to understand Popeye is too competitive so he decides to eliminate him. He chains Popeye down, captures Olive Oyl, and approaches the point of rape. But in the end Popeye manages to suck the 'spinach' through his pipe, grows strong with hemp, breaks free and defeats the evil corporations, saving her from industrial pollution and oppression.

"Relieved and happy, she gives herself back to the natural cycle, then Popeye smiles, winks and toots his pipe."

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bush sics new AG on tea drinkers

The Gonzales legacy of drug policy reform disaster begins. The ink is barely dry on the proclamation ordaining him as Bush's hackman and he leaps out of the gate with their first major assault on freedom of religion being waged against 140 people under the thin excuse that an herbal tea being used in their religious practice happens to be hallucinogenic. The case has been through the courts right up to the 10th Circuit and the Brazilian based church has won every ruling.

Bush wants his pet AG to take it to the Supremes and by filing the appeal, effectively prevents the church from conducting its rightful religious rite. It will cost hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars to pursue this vendetta against 140 people. What a waste.

More thoughts on this here.

OOPS: Pete, whose memory I trust more than mine, points out in comments that the stay allows the use of the tea until the case is actually decided and not as I thought only until the appeal was filed. It's still a ridiculous case for the AG to be pursuing but it's good that they can't thwart the use of the sacrament in the interim.

Superbowl madness

Some people will complain about anything. Nonetheless it's hard to believe that even McCarthy's performance generated a few complaints to the FCC. I didn't see it myself but he apparently performed the old tune, "Get Back" which includes the lyrics, "Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona/For some California grass." I mean really, complaining about a fleeting grass reference in a song written in the 60s?

I found it less surprising that two people called to complain the half-show was too boring.

Jumping into the fray

I won't have time to blog again until later today but I put up my first post at Tonguetied this morning. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sleeping with the enemy?

Well it's official. You know I sent in the initial "application" as a lark. I never thought I would hear back in the first place, but somehow I now have a password to the outer reaches of the inner sanctum at Fox News. I've been invited to sit in at their blog TongueTied. I got the gig folks.

I have to admit, I have mixed feelings. I loathe Fox but I really like this editor. Scott seems to be a really nice and honest guy. Not to mention courageous. He's giving us full editorial control. Who would have thought?

In any event I'm excited about the opportunity. At worst it will be an adventure, at best it could make a difference. Now all I have to do is master Moveable Type in the next 24 hours...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Get me to the curb on time

I finally figured out the trash removal schedule and came home to find my garbage can empty. It's funny how such a silly little thing can make you happy

Heroin by prescription - It all makes common sense

Canada will follow the lead of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Spain and start a "clinic providing free heroin to Vancouver addicts is to open later this month to see if prescribing the drug can help addicts who have failed in other treatment programs."

Having spoken to a woman involved in the Swiss program, I can tell you the results of these alternate approaches have been very successful, not only in helping overcome addiction but in associated health care and criminal enforcement costs. Good for Canada for standing up to US pressure and enacting harm reduction policies instead of subscribing to punishment models that simply don't work.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Short takes - sense and nonsense

The prohibition profiteers will be jumping on this one. The National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, Maryland found that people who smoked cannabis had higher blood flow through their brains than non-users. They found long lasting adverse effects in heavy smokers, which they define as people who smoke up to 50 joints every day with an average of 131 joints a week.

Give me a break. Who the hell smokes like that? Your average responsible consumer doesn't smoke that much in a year. I might also mention the obvious - NIDA depends on keeping marijuana illegal to make their money.

New Mexico legislators see the sense in medical marijuana and propose a bill to allow its use for patients with debilitating illnesses.

A lesson to be learned from the Dutch experiment with pharmaceutical cannabis. Don't make it more expensive than the cafes or no one will buy it.

And yet another law enforcement officer seduced by the profit in black market marijuana.

Senior citizens speak

Well they're not on board for full legalization but an AARP poll commissioned last November showed 72% of the citizens 45 years and older believed medical marijuana should be legal and 55% said they would try to get some for their loved ones if they needed it.

Little things

Thinking of my friends in the frozen north, I hate to tell you that I sat out on the family's deck this afternoon and the sun was so hot I had to take off my sweater but it really felt good. There's a resident hawk up there as well that sits in the neighbor's tree. She's come to visit two days running now. Then when I got home I discovered that my brave little daffodil survived the battering cold of last week and flowered today. It's a good enough life.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Too much time on his hands?

My friend Michael Krawitz clearly likes to keep busy. He apparently felt like he's got too much free time on his hands since he only serves in various capacities on Virginians Against Drug Violence,, Advisor to Patients Out of Time, Regional Director for The November Coalition, Founder of The Cannabis Museum, Advisor to NORML at VPI&SU and Listmaster to DRCNet and Drugsense. So to fill that extra hour or so every week, he's agreed to become a regular columnist at The Collegiate Times.

Check out his first column, "Drug War Wastes Needed Resources" where he looks at the lessons of alcohol prohibition and gives us the lowdown on law enforcement's back room dealings on meth in Virginia.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Prohibition profiteering

Here's a business that wouldn't exist without the prohibition, private drug dog-detection services. Why wait for the police to tell you, when for only $16 you can violate your teenager's privacy on your own. That should do wonders for building trusting family relations. And for all those employers who would rather be playing Big Brother than building a business plan, it costs a little more but you too can violate your workers' Fourth Amendment rights using the Rathy's dog, who can purportedly detect drugs or the residue of drugs in buildings or on clothing, even after 30 days.

The really sad part is apparently there's a lot of wannabe narcs out there. The Rathys have already recouped their $16,000 investment and turn enough of a profit to fund free drug awareness presentations at schools and non-profit organizations. How altruistic - as if that's not their target market.

Meghan at D'Alliance has more to say on this story.

More task force atrocities

The New Hampshire Drug Task Force is under fire for its officer's off-duty conduct. Seems the officers have a fondness for drink, (both on and off duty) and not only were they fighting with each other, they also assaulted civilians as a group.

Not that they disbanded the task force over it, and it appears the officers involved will skate but at least some of the police departments involved pulled their men out of the group and questioned current operating procedures. Me, with the mounting incidents of misconduct across the country best exemplified by Tulia, I question their existence at all.

Scott of Grits for Breakfast has more on these in Texas and beyond.

Grow your own

The Gateway, a student newspaper at the University of Alberta, Canada, published an excellent article on the above-mentioned topic along with a cogent argument for legalization. [Hat tip to the Media Awareness Project where the article is permanently archived.]

As Richard notes, how long do you think we will have to wait before an American university allows its students such freedom of the press?
Decrim works for UK

Here's a story I almost missed. The UK reclassified marijuana about a year ago. Since then arrests for possession of cannabis fell by a third saving an estimated 199,000 police hours that could be used to solve dangerous crimes. Furthermore, there was no statistical evidence that marijuana use among young people increased at all. In fact it remained at declining levels.

I love a success story.

Moving in by degrees

It's a different life here in the Red State. For one thing I have Republican senators. I was thinking that's a good thing because my phone calls actually make a difference here. When I called to urge them to vote no on Gonzales, I got through on the first ring. I don't suppose they were flooded with calls. And a strange little man approached me in a store aisle and told me he didn't understand how people could be anti-death penalty and pro-abortion and solicited my opinion on the Confederate flag. I guess it's obvious I'm not from around here.

I finally went into town to open a bank account. The bank, a national chain mind you, doesn't even have an ATM machine, although they assure me one will be going in soon. It will be a first for downtown. I walked around west side of the main street. It was a short walk. Three Noho type stores, well stocked but tiny with a lovely transformed alley between them with plants and benches.

Otherwise, there's an office building, a couple of bars, another bank, a coffeeshop and a handful of stores. The most successful seems to be the scrapper's store. Scrap books are apparently very big in the south. And then there's the hardware store. Clearly a holdover from before the building boom that's changing the character of the town, it's a huge space - 3 storefronts - filled with a delightful chaotic hodgepodge of every possible item from "little red wagons" and dungarees to cast iron cornbread pans and plumbing fixtures. Red wagons aren't cheap by the way. That deluxe model with the wooden sides that come off is over $150.00 but they were running a good sale on dungarees for ten bucks and folding metal chairs for five bucks a piece.

I had a look around and bought some stick on numbers for my mailbox. There a steady stream of locals coming through the whole time, buying the bits and pieces of fixing things. I think I'll go back and get some dungarees and a rake next time.

I'm having a few adjustment issues with home rentership. Garbage disposal becomes a challenge for instance without the dumpster. I finally managed to get my recycling out on the right day but the trash has been a dismal failure. The first time I forgot altogether and last time I apparently didn't get it out early enough. They told me they came first thing in the am to my hood, but who thought that would mean 6:00am? I hope I can still wheel the barrel up the driveway this week. Long driveway and a heavy barrel.

Meanwhile I paid my first round of bills here and I'm still not unpacked - not even close. In defense, lest you think I'm merely lazy, I might point out I haven't been here that much, probably less than two weeks out of the last month and with my erratic schedule, it's likely to take a while yet. I love having the carport though, it's nice not unloading the car in the rain and I love having an office and a coat closet. It makes me feel kind of grown up.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Blog talking

Speaking of the Drug WarRant, Pete has got of boatload of posts up that you shouldn't miss. He's found some new Souder-isms to parse and has a few choice words in return. He has the lowdown on former drug czar-ess Andrea Barthwell and her new organization formed as a vehicle for her speaking tours. And you thought she wasn't going to be able to make money from prohibition once she "quit" the DEA? He also has a photo spread on the local drug task force and an update on the tragic death of Cheryl Noel. It appears the cop shot her in the chest - twice.

Meanwhile Decrimwatch brings us good news from Belgium. "People found in possession of less than 3 grams of cannabis will now only receive a verbal warning from police, and their stash will not be confiscated, according to this report.

And Loretta has the dope on Macaulay Culkin's (you remember that kid in Home Alone) legal problems and an interesting story about an assistant AG in Florida who literally got caught with his pants down when he was mugged by the call girls he invited to his hotel room.
Doggie in the window

Caballes, the dog sniff case continues to generate blog buzz. Jim of Vice Squad, finally back from his travels and sees some good in the case. CrimLaw has an excellent analysis and Pete at Drug WarRant has some compelling further thoughts.

Flex Your Rights also checks in to remind us that Caballes doesn't mean you can't still ask if you are free to go and you can't be held indefinitely waiting for a dog to arrive. For more check out their excellent video - Busted - a must see for every citizen of the US, cannabis consumer or not.

I stand with my first reaction. The ruling is a dog that's torn what little flesh was left off the bones of our Fourth Amendment protections.

Hey There

Welcome to the bloggerhood to Megan Farrington who joins the party going on at D'Alliance. She jumps in with a post on myths about precursors to meth, while Melissa wonders what Robert Novak is smoking.

Meanwhile Weefur explains what happens when Supreme Court justices drive drunk - *hint* they get away with it.

Not fit for man or beast

This is just sad. It seems these three young guys are driving down the road in Colorado and find a half-dead wild cat in the middle of the road. So being humane souls, they stop and rescue the poor thing and it's big - 65 lbs according to the account. In good faith they drive into town and flag down a sherriff.

What's the sherriff's first reaction? In a fit of sympathy for a dying animal, he arrests the kids for possession of marijuana. He looks in the Jeep, says Yep, you boys got yourself a mountain lion in there. Gonna hafta call in wildlife control and by the way, what's that smell?

Even worse, the poor mountain lion, which was only about four months old was too badly injured and had to be put down. But the sherriff gave them a break. He didn't arrest them for illegal possession of wildlife because they were acting in good faith.

Disgusting. And you wonder why people are afraid to get involved anymore. Hat tip to Tammara Halphen who notes, "No good deed goes unpunished."

Out of the inbox

Trying to clear out my email and ran across a few items to share. For those of you who are interested in psychedelics, Media Awareness Project has just archived an excellent article from the NYT on the father of psychedelic drugs, Alexander Shulgin, now nearing 80 years old, who talks about his research and his life.

For flash movie fans, here's an amusing parody on Mr. Hypocrisy himself, Rush Limbaugh.

For researchers and other interested parties, there the interesting Drug Use in Toronto Report done by the The Research Group on Drug Use.

Under the heading, someone needs to remind these guys who they work for, Alaska governor Frank Murkowski wants to subvert the will of the people and the jurisdiction of the courts by introducing a bill that would overturn the state court's decision to make four oz or less of marijuana legal to possess in one's home and make other minor offenses into felony crimes.

In case you were sleeping in a cave for the last three weeks, the Justice Department in a fit of sanity decided not to appeal the ruling striking down the "law recently passed in Congress stating that transit agencies would lose federal funding if they accepted ads advocating the legalization or medical use of such illicit drugs." meaning reform organizations are free to post our side of the argument right up next to the Drug Free America posters at the bus station.

The prison industrial complex at work -burning up your tax dollars. An inmate was shot by an officer during a fight at Wasco State Prison in California. He's in a coma and has been declared brain dead but the prison still won't release him to the custody of his family. Authorities say they are investigating early parole but say otherwise he's got to finish his sentence. Meanwhile, he's shackled and under 24 hour armed guard. I wonder what it costs to guard a dead guy?

Finally, sixty pharmacies in Catalan Spain will begin dispensing medical marijuana under strict medical guidelines. According to the excerpts thoughtfully translated by Jules Siegel, it will be prescribed to treat vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and anorexia in patients with AIDS.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Unexpected Visitor

I don't get alerts when comments are posted so I sometimes I miss them altogether. Thus I was scrolling for something else when I discovered by complete chance that our little blog has been honored by a visit from M. Simon of Power and Control who engaged in a very interesting discussion in the comment section with our friend JackL about this post. Thanks to both for adding so greatly to the content.


The term painfully honest was probably coined for me. I've been in this moral dilemma all day over this Fox News gig. It finally dawned on me that if I get it, and I help make the blog more successful, I'm essentially aiding and abetting the enemy. I would practically be a sponsor of Bill O'Reilly. So I sent my pitch letter in to the editor anyway, but this is what I said:

It does however occur to me that if I get this gig, I will be helping Fox News, an organization that I consider the very embodiment of what's wrong with the media. No offense intended but I find Fox to be a baby step from becoming a full-blown state run media outlet and I loathe the station's spin. If I make TT money, that means I'm supporting the very thing I'm working against.

Next lifetime I'm going to learn how to be politic. Meanwhile, anyone that was holding their breath waiting for me to get this gig - I think you can exhale now.

Update: I appreciate the support but I see by the comments that I'm making myself look too noble here. I said a lot more than just that, and a lot of it was much nicer. I want the gig and I pitched to get it. I can't think of better place to take my meme than right to the doorstep of those who need it most. And I'd do a good job for them. I'd probably make them money.

It was only when I started entertaining the idea that by some inconceivable chance I might get into this group that I had this moral dilemma. I probably should have said it more delicately but it needed to be said upfront. I was really wrestling with it, as in - am I selling out my principles to get the exposure?

I decided the opportunity to widen my forum was worth the tradeoff but only if I could be that honest with the editor. Besides, following this little fantasy to its end, if I did get a slot, it's not like I would diss Fox on their own site but I have an archive full of posts at DetNews equally "frank" on Fox, falafels and O'Reilly. He would have found out eventually, so I was just being blunt, not brave.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Back to school?

More on the high school teacher that was busted for growing marijuana in his garage. It appears he won't be going to back to work today as expected. School district officials are prolonging the investigation despite recommendations by the case review committee that he be immediately reinstated. The principal of his school said last week, "she would welcome Sills back to the school and called him an "outstanding" teacher." In fact, "Sills, who taught advanced placement environmental systems and honors biology, was named a Radio Shack Teacher Scholar last year."

I'd like to know what there is to investigate. The guy wasn't charged with a crime and he's clearly a great teacher - get him back into the classroom.

Inside job - act two

This is why it's so easy to get drugs in prison. You'll notice the absence of masked SWAT teams armed with flashbombs on this one. It's different when it's one of their own.

Inside job

An enterprising UPS driver devised an interesting method of smuggling cannabis. He would have the herb shipped to businesses along his route and simply sign for the packages himself. They were found out when "investigators began tracking the packages after a narcotics team discovered their contents while they were on a conveyor belt at Los Angeles International Airport."

What I want to know is why our government is spending time and money trolling for narcotics at the airport instead of looking for bombs? No one has ever blown up a building using marijuana.

Border busts up in the North

According to a report prepared jointly by government prohibition agencies in the US and Canada, border seizures of marijuana have increased by 259%. That sounds like a lot, but numbers are so deceiving. It still only constitutes 2% of the total amounts coming into the country. Interestingly this still makes Canada the number two importer of the herb, followed closely by Colombia and Jamaica. The actual report is available here.

Most of the imports still come through Mexico of course but they never seem to mention the cannabis grown right here in the US. Judging from the daily reports of grow-op busts around the country, it's got to be significant.

Participants needed for cannabis study

COMPASS, Cannabis for the management of pain, assessment of safety study is a Canadian-based organization that is looking for subjects that use cannabis to control chronic pain. For medical users in their area may want to contribute to the research by volunteering to become subjects in the study, details are available here.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Makes me want to shout

Our friend Dean Becker hit another milestone this week, adding more affiliates to his Cultural Baggage network for a grand total of 23 towers at press time. "Cultural Baggage" is Becker's weekly half hour program which features interviews with US Congressmen, Canadian Senators, noted authors, working wardens, pharmaceutical pot providers and a host of others willing to speak on the policy of drug prohibition. Seven days a week, Becker offers up the 3 minute "4:20 Drug War News". In Houston, Becker also reports on Houston Access TV channel's "Drugs, Crime and Politics". (Broadcast on alternate Wednesdays' at 6:30 PM). Archives are available online at

Marijuana initiative revived in Nevada

I find it so galling that Bush pretends to bring democracy to other countries when his administration and its supporters consistently try to pervert the democratic process at home. Thank God for courageous jurists who won't let them get away with it. "U.S. District Judge James Mahan granted an injunction Friday that will force the 2005 Legislature to consider a petition calling for the legalization of marijuana ruling Secretary of State Dean Heller followed an unconstitutional procedure when he rejected the initiative petition in December."

Heller tried to kill the petition by "moving the goalposts" for accepting the signatures. He changed the guidelines a week before they were due. The state will not appeal the order.

That will give lawmakers 40 days to act on the initiative proposals. If they fail to do so, then the initiatives will be put on the ballot for the 2006 general election so voters can decide.

MPP worked hard collecting signatures for this initiative -- which would remove all penalties for marijuana use by adults aged 21 and older, as well as create a system for the legal cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults. They need money to lobby the lawmakers now. If you have ten bucks to give this project, click here.

Congratulations to Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada for a job well done.


There's another friendly new face at D'Alliance. Welcome to the bloggerhood to Weefur, who looks into the future and shows us what it looks like when prohibitionists rule the world.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sunday bird blogging

Well I'm not out of news but I'm out time. I'm on family duty and heading up to the homestead for the night but I did have an exciting sighting this morning. There was a half a dozen really big crows pecking away in my neighbor's yard this morning. I noticed one of them was the wrong color so I watched them for a while. It turned out the red one was really a Cooper's Hawk.

He hung around for a really long time and I'm not surprised he didn't bother the crows, they were about as big as he was but the robins were hopping around only yards away and a few wrens seemed unconcerned that he sitting on the telephone wires within striking distance watching them.

It was a funny morning. I also saw a dog that looked to be a golden retriever of sorts trotting down the street earlier. When she got to my driveway she turned in and trotted right down as if she might stop by and visit. I was ready to go to the door and let her in. She merely peed by the carport and kept going though.

New kid on the blogck

Welcome to Melissa Milam who slides into the blogger's seat recently vacated by Baylen at D'Alliance. We're still cryin' in our beer here and miss Baylen like crazy of course but Melissa has already won us over with her first post on a thrifty high school teacher who was growing his own cannabis to save money.

Sadly he was busted when the police entered his garage in hot pursuit of a suspected truant student but the story has a reasonably happy ending for a drug war tale.

Prosecutors dismissed the charge last week because police didn't have probable cause to enter his home. He might return to work as early as Tuesday, though he will be subjected to random drug tests by the school district for one year.

I've always said cannabis consumers make great teachers. It appears the school district agrees.

Agitating for your rights

This piece by Radley Balko at Fox News on how the war on some drugs is destroying our Bill of Rights has been well covered by Scott and Pete but it deserves wide distribution and besides I'm feeling kind of charitable towards Fox today.

Swallow your cynicism JackL, I received another email from the editor of Tonguetied. I made the first cut and miraculously am still in the running for a blogger spot there. We're to "audition" this week but don't start holding your breath yet folks. I seriously doubt I'll be invited in, nonetheless I like that I'm at least still under consideration. I'll keep you posted if anything develops.

Anyway, back to Radley, who makes some excellent points on how criminal justice has devolved into a two-tiered system where the rights of drug offenders (and that includes alcohol) have been abridged well beyond what would be considered constitutionally sufficient for other crimes. He notes,

Courts have carved out a "drug war exemption" in the Bill of Rights for multiple search and seizure scenarios, privacy, wiretapping, opening your mail, highway profiling, and posse comitatus -- the forbidden use of the U.S. military for domestic policing.

He counts the ways "substance-abuse hysteria" has provided an environment for the courts to allow these infringing practices and nothing escapes his notice.

The drug war has been eating at the Bill of Rights since its inception. Asset forfeiture laws, for example, allow law enforcement to seize the assets of suspected drug dealers before they're ever convicted of a crime. Even if the defendant is acquitted or the charges are dropped, the mere presence of an illicit substance in a car or home can mean the loss of the property, on the bizarre, novel legal principle that property can be guilty of a crime.

He's not optimistic about solving the problem, but nails the solution.

It would take a rare and brave politician to stand up and say that we need to roll back or reconsider our drug laws, or that it's unfair to give accused murderers or rapists more rights than we give DWI defendants. But that's exactly what needs to happen.

Indeed. So all we need to do is get more drug policy reformers to run for office.

Pete speaks

Pete at Drug WarRanthas been posting circles around me lately and has a lot you shouldn't miss. He covers the story on the latest drug victim Cheryl Noel, 44, who was shot and killed by police during a drug raid that netted so small an amount of marijuana the surviving defendants were charged for possession and released on their own recognizance. Oh and one guy was charged with black powder possession, whatever that is. I thought that was something they use in antique guns.

This whole police commando raid thing has got to go. What is it anyway with the ski masks and flash bombs? Pete notes they break down the door to make sure the evidence isn't flushed but if the evidence is small enough to flush, how does that justify sending in a freaking SWAT team? It's all so inhumane. As Pete put it, "To the drug warrior, evidence has a higher value than people's lives." Pete should know. He's been keeping track and the list grows longer every day.

Pete also has some thoughts on the Government's Free Ride on Prohibition. Prodded by everyone's favorite commenter Kaptinemo, Pete reflects on how the feds get away with outright lying about the "danger of drugs." He thinks the recent car dog sniff case, Caballes, will encourage the Supremes to uphold dog sniffs of houses. I think with or without Caballes - they were leaning towards that anyway.

He has more to say on the case here and reminds us, just in case you were thinking this might be good for homeland security, that dogs either sniff for drugs or bombs, not both.

Lone Star state of mind

I've been fooling around posting on the Iraq elections all day so we're getting really behind on the drug war news this weekend. Fortunately, while Libby fiddles, Scott at Grits for Breakfast is burning up the blogosphere with posts.

He gives us the lowdown on a new bill in the Texas Legislature "which would provide an affirmative defense to prosecution in state court for patients possessing medical marijuana and for doctors who prescribe it." For those readers who are not legal scholars this means that if an MMJ patient is busted they can present evidence of medical necessity at trial, doctors will be able to discuss the MMJ option with their patients with at least less fear of prosecution and law enforcement will have an option not to bust sick people in the first place. As Scott says, "Help out cancer patients and doctors, and save $11 million -- how can legislators go wrong?"

Scott also points us to some conservative support for another bill pending in Texas, that would "amend the state's drug laws to decrease the penalty of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor. Such an offense is comparable to a traffic ticket, carrying a fine of up to $500." Columnist Mark McCaig of Texas A&M's school newspaper makes some heartening comments on the bill.

This bill does not legalize marijuana. All it does is prevent individuals from going to jail for making a personal choice that does not endanger others. ...Sadly, the war on drugs has also, in many ways, become a war on common sense.

The average marijuana user - as long as he isn't driving while high - poses absolutely no threat to others. While it can be argued that the government should prevent people from engaging in harmful behavior, marijuana is no more harmful than many other substances that are legal.

Marijuana decriminalization also frees up the resources of our police, courts and jails to deal with criminals who are committing offenses that actually harm society. By allowing the police to catch thieves instead of pot smokers, these scarce resources can be used for the benefit of society. We are not any safer or better off because a marijuana smoker is locked up behind bars.

We've all been saying that for years of course, and it appears we are finally getting through.

Scott has much more as always including a wry look at stupid drug war lies being made by the Austin police and prosecutors about heroin use. Check the rest out for yourself.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

A little personal time

It's a dismal day but spent in a cozy house. I of course frittered away most of the day on the internet. I got outside briefly before the sleet started though and was delighted to see I have a resident blue bird in the back yard. I saw the cardinal pair today as well. They actually came to visit, perching in the bush outside the window here above my desk. I swear they were looking in and talking to each other about me. And a wren of some sort just popped by a moment ago and took a peek inside.

I also got a lovely note from Chelsea Green Publishers thanking me for my posts on saying no to Gonzales and advising my free book was on the way. Since no one has ever sent cash, I believe this is our first "tip." Pretty cool and I really wanted the book. Thanks to the good folks at Chelsea Green for their generosity.

Meanwhile, I almost got a job blogging for Fox News. Their blog Tonguetied is diversifying into a multiple blogger format and they were taking applications from the public. I offered to put the balance in, as in their slogan - fair and.... I would have loved to do it, but needless to say I didn't get the gig. I did surprisingly receive a rather nice note from the editor however, telling me they weren't looking to shake up the format enough to include my point of view, but if they changed their mind (and I quote), "you're near the top of the list if we do." I've had worse rejections.

Answer please

M Simon at Power and Control has a few very good questions. In fact I have the same questions myself and they transcend political affliation.

What is the purpose of making a black market in abortion?

What is the purpose of making a black market for drugs?

What social purpose is served by creating and enriching a criminal class?

What is the lesson of alcohol prohibition?

What is the point of passing laws that will be widely flouted?

What is the difference between passing laws and solving problems?

In fact if passing laws works so good why didn't laws against crashing planes into buildings work on 9/11?

How does multiplying the number of people with experience with violating serious laws help create a civil society?

Is an experienced smuggler class a good idea?

How many agents per mile are required to seal a border?

Do laws against guns really work? (you see this kind of stupidity is not just on the right)

We're all still waiting for the answers.

Look out Rastas - No freedom of religion here

If you're planning to be in Ethiopia to attend the events celebrating what would have been Bob Marley's 60th birthday, authorities warn - leave your marijuana at home.

Found in the referral logs

I haven't had time to check the referral log much lately but here's a new blog I found there yesterday that I really like. Neurosynaptic explains the mysteries of synapses, a subject near and dear to my heart since I often suffer from what I call "synapse shorts."

Written in easily understandable terms, it makes the science palatable to laymen and who doesn't want to know more about the brain to booty connection?

New blog in town

Welcome to the bloggerhood to my old pal Elmer Elevator (aka Bob Merkin) who has finally started his own blog - Vleeptron. Check out his first post.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Cannabis Granny vows to keep cooking

Patricia Tabram, the 66 year old grammy who was busted for cooking with cannabis can no longer save her pension money by growing her own but has kept her cannabis cooking circle alive by delegating procurement of the herb to other members of her little group and using other kitchens to prepare her dishes. She tells the Hexham Courant "As well as myself, the group consists of three women who suffer from multiple sclerosis and a man who has terrible arthritis. We all feel the benefits of eating cannabis."

She has strong reasons for continuing to risk further incurring legal charges.
Suffering from a multitude of ailments that strike the elderly, she tells us after embarking on a cannabis regime, "I have been pain-free, pill-free and my hearing aid is redundant. I have also gone from smoking 20 cigarettes a day down to six a week." I assume she means tobacco there.

It's clear why she would continue risking her freedom for the plant. What doesn't make sense is that she was ever arrested in the first place.

Principal tips off target of drug investigation

As a mother, I find this story disturbing. Not because the principal alerted a 16 year old girl's mother that she was about to be busted for trafficking drugs - I think it was humane gesture to prevent her arrest - but because of this:

According to the affidavit, the girl told investigators she had carried about 10 kilograms of marijuana on the bus almost daily and for each delivery received $1,000 to $2,000 that she split with Jarosz.

That's over 20 pounds of pot. How on earth do teenagers get access to that quantity? Adults were clearly involved in this apparently major operation and when even cops are corrupted by that kind of easy money, how we expect a kid whose only other option is a minimum wage job as a clerk of some sort, not to be?

If we ended prohibition they wouldn't be able to turn our children into drug mules.

Prohibition creates corruption - again

These stories are becoming all too common. Four veteran police officers who "conspired with drug dealers to steal money, drugs and guns from competing dealers" were arrested in Chicago this week. Investigators say more officers were involved in the scheme and expect more arrests to be made. Evidence shows the officers were involved in making bogus traffic stops to conduct shake-downs and also broke into homes to steal from their victims.

None of this would happen if we ended prohibition of some drugs. Just as the end of Prohibition I closed down the speak-easies and dismantled the criminal networks that provided bootleg booze, so the end of this prohibition would close down the crackhouses and put the backstreet dealers out of business.

Think about it. When is the last time you heard of cops shaking down people for a case of Budweiser?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The rich are different - they have better lawyers

Here we are almost a year later and Operation Sandshaker defendants are still being tried and convicted. We talked about this here last April when the 3 year investigation led to the bust of 53 responsible citizens who had formed a cooperative of sorts to get cocaine for their personal use.

Most are seemingly ordinary, middle-aged people. They include two lawyers, a teacher, boat captain, bartender, insurance adjuster, homebuilder, hairdresser, plumber, chef and artist. The most prominent is a college foundation board member, millionaire Charles Lamar Switzer, 54, who is awaiting trial on state charges.

I told you here a few weeks later about the main defendant, Domingo Gonzalez receiving a 17 year sentence for his role. He was indigent and couldn't afford a decent lawyer. Some kingpin. He never made money at it.

Now the defendants who do have money or status are coming to trial. TChris at TalkLeft updates us on the latest conviction. David Collins co-owner of a real estate school, who also once served on the Florida Real Estate Commission, received a 3 1/2-year state prison sentence Wednesday. He was charged for trafficking only because the prosecutors added up each little personal weekend buy until they reached a weight where they could lodge the charge even though he never sold any.

Defense lawyer Drew Pinkerton said Collins will appeal but will probably serve about 18 months even if he wins because Florida's drug trafficking law prohibits appeal bonds.

"It's the most draconian law in the world," said Pinkerton, who insisted his client was a recreational user, not a trafficker. "This guy goes to prison for 42 months and half the burglars and robbers are walking around the street out there on probation."

True enough, but as TChris points out, when it's a prominent businessman it's called draconian. But where are these guys when poor blacks and Latinos are being sentenced even more cruelly for less?

Just say no to Gonzales

This is good news. I was afraid it we were going to go quietly from out of the Ashcroft frying pan into AG heir-apparent Al Gonzales' fire without a word of protest. Two days to go and finally the opposition has found a voice. I already have another post at the Detroit News on this but as Jules Siegel pointed out in his review of the book, "Guantanamo: What the World Should Know," the prison policy of the military closely mirrors what our own drug war prisoners endure in US "correctional facilities." Gonzales had a big hand in the making of that policy.

Human Rights First just released an excellent video illustrating the mentality of the man and also assembled a preponderence of evidence on why we can't allow his confirmation to go forward.

Meanwhile at Daily Kos, bloggers have issued a joint statement in opposition. I signed on in the comment section which at that time was close to 500 comments, many from bloggers. Kos also tells us Chelsea Green Publishing is giving away free copies of "Guantanamo: What the World Should Know" to all blogs who join the call to vote "no" on Gonzales. Email Margo Baldwin at with your blog name, URL of post urging the "no" vote, and address.

But don't wait for the bloggers to do all the work. Call your senators yourself and leave a message that Gonzales has got to go. [Via Talk Left]

Grandma Eats Cannabis

Patricia Tabram, age 66, of the UK discovered cannabis by accident. Suffering from depression, whiplash in her neck and back pain, she had noticed a marked improvement in her condition after unknowingly consuming cannabis as a friend's home. When told she could cook with the plant, Patricia being a former chef, started making biscuits, soups and casseroles with cannabis for her family and friends.

She's been raided twice, netting 31 plants and recently appeared in court where she pled guilty to possession with intent. She seems to be taking it all in stride.

She said: "When the police came to my door I invited them in. I told them to look in the loft and I offered them some tea and biscuits."

She's also written a book and is looking for a publisher.

(Thanks to Paul von Hartmann for the link. As he points out, folk remedies using various herbs have been utilized by grandmothers from the beginning of time. Patricia is clearly not a drug dealer but under the rules of prohibition she is still treated as such.)

Number crunching

Regular readers know that I love these internet polls. Who knows if they do any good but I figure what the hey, they can't hurt and it only takes a few seconds to click through. Thanks to Michael Krawitz for the heads-up on this one in the UK - Should cannabis be legalized? (Poll appears in upper right corner under "Your Verdict"). Current results are 67% for, 33% against.

The end of democracy as we know it?

My friend Jules Siegel's credentials and accomplishments are so long even his own website doesn't list all of them. He favors us today with a new book review on Guantánamo: What the World Should Know, By Michael Ratner and Ellen Ray.

Jules has a lot to say on the brutal excesses of our government-sponsored torture, which taken as whole as detailed in the volume is, as he puts it, enough to "nauseate any sane human being." Of interest to drug policy reformers however, is the analogy he finds between the conditions at Gitmo and those of our own prison system in the US, especially as related to the war on some drugs.

While many well-meaning people on both left and right profess to be shocked by the stories that continue to pour out of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, they usually fail to understand that these atrocities are well-rooted in American culture.

"None of what is known to have happened in Guantánamo is alien to American prisoners." says Paul Wright, Editor, Prison Legal News. Sexual assault, long term sensory deprivation, abuse, beatings, shootings, pepper spraying and the like are all too familiar to American prisoners. Coupled with overcrowding, this is the daily reality of the American prison experience."

Perhaps the only real difference is that the White House argues more forcefully than usual that no court can forbid it to arbitrarily detain and torture anyone it designates an unlawful enemy combatant, a definition that it has applied not only to foreigners but also to American citizens. We have seen how the drug exception to the Constitution has nullified basic American rights such a freedom from illegal search and seizure. But the war on drugs was merely a test run. Some rights remained intact. Now comes the permanent war against terrorism in which all human rights are annihilated.

And as we all know the Bush administration has been working overtime to form a nexus between terrorism and drugs with their continued references to narco-terrorists and the ONDCP's ads alleging smoking pot finances terrorism. Jules wonders if we are now bearing witness to the end of democracy in the United States. I have to wonder myself.

Kitchen magic

This will impress those of you who know me well. I've actually figured out to use the oven in my new house. Okay, so I only baked a frozen pizza but still, this is the first time I've used a real oven in ten years. Otherwise, I'm still moving in by degrees (I used tin foil under the pizza because I haven't unpacked my kitchen stuff yet) but I'm starting to really love this little house. It's lovely to have so much space.

The moon has been stunning the last couple of nights. It feels closer here for some reason and it's so bright, the trees cast moon shadows. The birdwatching has been slow with the chill weather but yesterday afternoon was relatively balmy and I saw my first bluebird. He was hanging out with a bunch of nervous little wrens who where hiding in the trees from the two hawks that were circling the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, I was stunned to discover in the local news that this little town actually has homeless people - they estimate there's probably a dozen of them. There's a big controversy about zoning for shelters going on. Somebody wants to start one and as always, nobody wants one in their neighborhood.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Take this job and shove it

I'm appalled at this story myself, but unfortunately it's not illegal for a private company to dictate the terms of employment. Employees are forced to take drug tests every day in America and nicotine is just one more drug. Whether the owner can apply the policy retroactively depends on a number of factors but our courts have already ruled these invasive tests constitutional. I do however find the owner's behavior distressing and distasteful. You couldn't get me to work for that boor for any amount of money. I find it infuriating that he thinks has the right to meddle in his employee's private lives and even more so that the law allows it.

Another source reports that "the company also has programs in place to get employees to eat right and get more exercise." Those programs are not mandatory - yet. Today tobacco, tomorrow the Kripsy Kreme addict?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity

Well it seems to be press release day and is pleased to announce the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a new report on the industrial hemp marketplace and legislative efforts to allow hemp farming in the United States.

The report features background on the current situation, data on foreign hemp production and U.S. consumption, analysis of the legal situation regarding hemp foods, and a review of economic studies. "We are very pleased the Congressional Research Service has issued this report and hope that members of Congress will conclude from the research that the U.S. is falling behind other developed nations on industrial hemp cultivation and technology," says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. "I believe we will see federal legislation introduced this year to allow farmers to grow non-psychoactive hemp for the first time since the 1950s."

That would be really good news. The ban on agricultural hemp is one of most short-sighted and counter-productive aspects of this addle-brained war on some drugs. Let them grow rope.

Drug Question Scrapped on Student Aid Form

Tom Angell of Students for Sensible Drug Policy sends in some good news. Thanks to their efforts a Congressionally-appointed committee yesterday called for the removal of a question about drug convictions from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The question currently appears on the FAFSA because of a 1998 law that suspends financial aid eligibility for students with any drug convictions. Since the question was added to the FAFSA in 2000, it has affected more than 157,000 students.

The proposal to remove the drug question comes from a report issued today by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, an independent committee created by Congress to advise on higher education and student aid policy. The report characterizes the drug conviction question as "irrelevant" and notes that its existence "...add[s] complexity to the form and can deter some students from applying for financial aid."

This group has been tireless in addressing the inequity of denying financial aid to students with even the most minor drug charges on their record and their work is an example to all reformers on how to change the system from within. Congratulations to SSDP for a job well done.

UPDATE: Tom Angell checks in with a comment to temper my enthusiam here. In his own words, "As a clarification, the committee's recommendation does not mean that the question will in fact be removed from the form. As we all know, the federal government has a history of not following its own recommendations. Remember Nixon and marijuana decriminalization in 1972?

In any case, this development is huge one, and it is very positive. Folks who want to contribute to SSDP's efforts to change misguided drug policies can do so here.

Burning down the house

Yet another innocent victim of a drug raid. An 18 year old woman suffered second- and third-degree burns on her chest and stomach when a device, known as a flash-bang was flung into an apartment by police officers conducting a raid. She was not a target of the investigation.

The actual target of the raid, a 24 year old charged with conspiracy (God they that love that charge) to possess and distribute marijuana, and with possessing a 9 mm handgun. One assumes that means they didn't find any marijuana on the premises either although the article claims the kid admitted importing 1000 pounds over three years. It may sound like a lot to nonconsumers but 300+ pounds a year is not a major operation that requires commando tactics to bring down.

And what is it with this penchant for breaking down doors and terrorizing people in their own homes these days anyway. These cops are watching too much television. There's no need for all this grandstanding and you read of these mistakes all the time. For all the prohibitionist's talk about drugs causing violence, it seems to me the ones causing the injuries to innocent people are the police, not the defendants.

This poor child will no doubt be scarred for life from this "unintended consequence" illustrating once again that drug policy enforcement is more dangerous than the use of the drugs.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Aerial eradication thwarted in Afghanistan

The US is backing off on its plan to force aerial eradication of poppy fields down the Afghani government's throat. With the illicit drug trade forming some 60% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product, it's clear why Karzai would want to tread lightly on the issue but what's striking to me is the way the $780 million US tax dollars was being allocated for the proposed counter-narcotics programs. $152 million had been earmarked for aerial eradication beginning this month.

And how much were they planning to spend to rebuild the economy with an alternate crops? $40 million. Oh and "in the meantime, the United States has given $500,000 for a one-time program to deliver wheat seeds and fertilizer to farmers in Nangarhar province, one of the major poppy-growing areas."

They don't say what they're going to do with the other 580+ million. My guess is that's all for military expenses. Further, "the administration will ask for up to $1 billion in aid for Afghanistan in a supplemental budget request in early February."

Thinking of the Senlis Council's press release, it seems to me there's a simpler solution. We should buy the crop, turn it into legal morphine and simply pay the farmers enough to grow legal crops to make it worth their while to give up poppies. It wouldn't take that much. The farmers are not the ones making the money on the drugs. They are by and large poor people who simply grow the crop that gives the best return. Individually they still barely make enough to survive.

As former U.N. advisor in Afghanistan Barnett R. Rubin tells the Pak Tribune, "opium prices that had plummeted because of the bumper poppy harvest last year quadrupled on the expectation that eradication would make for a smaller crop this year."

Because opium can be stored indefinitely and sold when the price is right, the traffickers "are big supporters of crop eradication right now," said Rubin, who argues that supporting other forms of rural development is a better investment.

"The net result of crop eradication will be a net transfer of income from opium growers to drug traffickers," he said.

We need look no further than the failed model in Colombia to see the truth in that. The US has poured millions of our tax dollars into coca eradication there and you all know what little effect that's had on the amount of cocaine on the streets of our cities.

Unfortunately, Bush doesn't get the lesson. The administration is currently reworking the proposal. They still want to go on with the eradication by hand. Don't ask what's that's going to cost.